As we kick off the week of Valentine's Day, we thought this Running Through It essay—a lovely piece that touches on grief and connection, running and love—sets the perfect tone. #Motherrunner Annmarie wrote this in early 2016, but it could have been yesterday. All the players are still the same, especially her BRF Tiffiney.
Today my mom would have turned 85. She left us only last month. As her birthday approached, I was becoming increasingly anxious, tense and sad. It still amazes me how grief can come out of nowhere like a tornado and suffocate you with a heaviness that crushes your heart.
As a means to deal with my emotions, I scheduled an early morning run. Yet, when the alarm went off at 4:50 am, I bailed. I couldn’t do it. I blamed it on a queasy stomach.
After preschool drop-off, I still had miles to log; my BRF, Tiffiney and I are training for the Love Run in Philly in April. My eccentric boss was already texting and emailing me with time-sensitive tasks, so I did what any dedicated runner would do: I put away my phone. My workday for him does not begin until 2 pm, after all.
It’s a grey day here in the burbs of Philly. Piles of brown, dirty snow litter the streets and lawns. The trees are lifeless. No sign of spring anywhere. It’s simply ugly. My run needed something.
I needed an extra UMPH today. Even though I have run with headphones about 3 times total in the last 5 years, today, I decided to not only run with headphones, but to listen to an AMR podcast. (#184: Dinner Planning and Meal Making with Jenny Rosenstrach: Loved Jenny, and I can’t wait to buy her book.)
But the end of the podcast is what prompted me to write to you. I was also coming to the end of my run.
Which meant preschool pick-up, grocery-store run, meal prep, work (ugh!) and also the elephant in the room: my mom’s birthday. As I listened to you both read the letter from the women who ran her first 13.1, my thoughts scrambled through ways I could celebrate my mom.
I was beginning to feel that tornado start to swirl when Dimity started laughing while reading the letter (not at the author, out of familiarity for what the author went through on race day). I was just cresting the last hill of my run.
No matter how saddened my heart is with my loss, there is something euphoric about running. At this point in today’s run the endorphins kicked in. There was no denying: I felt good. Really good. Dimity continued to talk about the author’s success with her half-marathon and I couldn’t help but think of my running buddies.
Tiffiney MADE me sign up for the Love Run—you know how BRFs can be. We have a huge group training for it. We log a lot of miles each week together and having a race to train for with one another is pretty spectacular.
Despite our Northeast winter not being the worst, I have groaned and moaned at having to log miles with 2 feet of snow all over. I am getting a shirt for the race that says #nolovefortheloverun. I dream of winters in Florida wearing shorts and a t-shirt as my warm layers. Somedays I even contemplate bagging running and taking up knitting.
But the truth of the matter is, if Tiffiney and I didn’t run, we’d never be the friends we are now. We couldn’t possibly know the depth of each other’s feelings and thoughts if we didn’t strap headlamps on and pound the pavement (ice?) in the wee hours of the morning. Trying to coordinate schedules for even a post-run coffee is hard; our best time together is run time.
I finished my run today thinking about how many miles Tiffiney and I have collectively logged, both on and off the road. The obstacles we have crossed. The successes we have celebrated. Together we have weaved through careers, marriages, dreams, parenting, relationships, hopes and fears as we strive to do our best at this thing called life.
And how, thanks to running, I have someone who’s been my shoulder to lean on while I learn how to be a wife, parent, daughter, sister, Aunt, friend, and BAMR without the presence of my mom on a daily basis.
I thank my lucky stars for running…and for Tiffney.
Your podcast ended with a song about being alive.
At the same time, Tiffiney texted me.
I was feeling good.
My mom never really understood my running. Always asking how far that marathon was or why would I ever get up and run at 5 am. But my mom was an expert at relationships. She respected my BAMR friends and always embraced them.
I know she would ask repeatedly how far the Love Run is, no matter how many times I already told her. I know she would offer me good luck. And I know she would enjoy knowing I was doing it with my friends.
The sun might not be shining but today is turning out to be a good day. There is lightness in the air that adds a perk to my steps. The kids and I are sending my mom bubbles in heaven this afternoon. I have a plan for dinner. I’m downloading my workout to Strava.
And tomorrow Tiffiney and I are running together.